Almost everything present in our modern civilization is connected to electrical engineering. Those smartphones, computers or the large machines used in medical technology are all being touched by electrical engineers.
They design and develop systems, and gets involved in projects starting at the conceptualization phase up to the maintenance stage. These engineers also perform other multifaceted duties such as cost analyses, feasibility studies, project management, or consultancy.
Without these innovative, intelligent and well-trained individuals, our society would have a hard time existing. Electrical engineers play an essential role in nearly every industry including transportation, communications, utilities, and the government.
But, before these electrical engineers become of service, they had to undergo and meet several educational requirements. If you are inclined to be an electrical engineer someday, here are steps you need to become one:
1. Early Preparation
2. Get a Bachelor’s Degree or Advanced Degree
3. Take the Fundamental of Engineering Exam
4. Gain Experience Through an Entry-Level Job
5. Take the Professional Engineering Exam
6. Pursue Further Learning
In-Depth Guide on the Education You Need to Become an Electrical Engineer
As early in high school, you should focus on mathematics and physics, especially on calculus, algebra, and trigonometry. Nearly everything in electrical engineering can be linked under these areas, so it is essential to build a good foundation of knowledge about them. Drafting classes, particularly computer-aided design, are also advantageous to pursue further on this career.
Honing specific skills at an early age can also be beneficial for you to make it in the industry. You need excellent communications skills to discuss designs and reasoning. You must also be detail-oriented to track elements or technical traits for research or to test electronic components. Lastly, you must be able to apply your mathematics knowledge for design, troubleshooting, and analysis.
Get a Bachelor’s Degree or Advanced Degrees
A bachelor’s degree is the first educational requirement to be an electrical engineer. You can earn a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from any qualified university accredited by the Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology (ABET).
This step will prepare you to analyze and design electrical systems, gain a vast understanding of electrical theories and first-hand experience on mechanics, computer programming, thermodynamics, and circuitry. You will learn more about typical applications which include making computers run, storing power, or creating and maintaining working networks of communication.
A bachelor’s degree usually takes 4 to 5 years to finish, depending on the university and the specialty field you’ve chosen like telecommunications engineering or biomedical engineering. As you progress on the course, subjects continue to increase in difficulty.
To give you a glimpse, here are some of the required courses you need to take:
- Mathematics and basic sciences
- Engineering Lab
- Engineering Mechanics
- Signal & Linear Systems Analysis
- Statistical Topics in Electrical Engineering
- Digital Logic Design and Lab
- Digital Communications
- Senior Design Project
- Advanced Circuit Analysis with Computers
- Ordinary Differential Equations
- Electromagnetic Fields
- Technical Electives
While you can go and take the Fundamentals of Engineering exam after getting a bachelor’s degree, you may also opt to earn a master’s degree. Graduate studies dive deeper than on the subjects you’ve taken during the bachelor’s level and somewhat more challenging.
As a graduate student, you have to take up a course that will let procure a deeper understanding of specific areas in engineering. To finish the degree, you must demonstrate what you’ve learned by completing coursework or researching and finishing a comprehensive thesis.
Qualified universities with great engineering departments offer this two-year graduate degree and other specialized certificates. Earning a graduate degree in electrical engineering gives you an advantage and will help you attain faster career development. You will be able to work in development and research or as an instructor in a college or a university. You can also be promoted to into higher-level occupations that involve projects management or handling engineering teams.
Some of the electrical engineering graduate courses include:
- Power Systems
- Linear Control Systems
Once you’ve earned your master’s degree, you may again choose to earn a doctorate degree in engineering. Having a Ph.D. opens up more opportunities at the highest levels of the industry, in teaching and research.
Be minded that doctorate courses are more complicated and in-depth than those at the bachelor’s or master’s level. You’ll spend most of your time doing coursework in a chosen specialization and finishing a research dissertation. Majority of the students in this level juggle teach in a university while taking earning a doctorate’s degree.
Doctoral courses usually provide mastery in the following courses:
- Electrical Software
- Technology and Theoretical Electricity
Individuals who earned a doctorate’s degree usually gain expert-level experience on skills such as conducting experiments, demonstrating mathematical knowledge, and designing electrical software, systems, and devices.
Take the Fundamental of Engineering Exam
After finishing at least a Bachelor’s Degree, you need to take and pass the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam to get the primary license to land a job in the utility field. The FE exam will test your knowledge about probability and statistics, mathematics, ethics, engineering economics, linear systems and all other areas you have taken during the undergraduate program.
Once you’ve passed the FE exam, you will be designated as engineers-in-training (EITs) or engineer interns (EIs) until you pass your Professional Engineer (PE) exam and get your actual license.
Gain Experience Through an Entry-Level Job
Now that you’ve passed the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam, it’s time to gain actual experience. While going to college gives you the required knowledge, it is in the field where you thoroughly learn what it feels like to be an electrical engineer. Four years of work experience is required by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying for you to take the Professional Engineer (PE) exam.
You need to work under the supervision of any licensed or professional engineer in a company. Your mentor will thoroughly explain what your job position entails, show you how things are done, and share with you valuable experience in their occupation. Make sure to grasp all the engineering terminology and information that the company and your mentor wants you to have.
You may also start procuring practical experience while finishing your education by taking parts in cooperative programs offered by your educational institution. Engineering services firms, manufacturing companies, engineering services institutions, and research and developments firms also provides entry-level positions for engineers-in-training (EITs) or engineer interns (EIs).
Take the Professional Engineering Exam
As an EIT, you are required to have four years of related work experience to qualify for the Professional Engineer (PE) exam. This credential is essential as all states require electrical engineers to have a license to be able to offer services to the public.
You can take the Power Exam or the Electrical and Electronics Exam depending on where you decided to specialize on. The Power Exam will test expertise about circuit analysis, rotating machines, general power engineering, and electromagnetic devices. On the other hand, the Electrical and Electronics exam focuses on digital systems, magnetic and electrical theories, electronics, electrical engineering knowledge, and control systems fundamentals. A passing score on your selected exam results in your PE designation.
While some businesses don’t require PE license for an electrical engineer to work with them, the majority of the states treat illegal to establish an engineering business or act as an independent consultant without earning PE license.
It is great to have your PE credential to land on better opportunities. Once you have one, you can find a position in corporate consulting firms, fabrication plants, mines or laboratories. You may also manage electricians, scientists and computer engineers.
An electrical engineer can also be involved with:
- Radio and Television
- Electronic Circuits
- Power Generation
- High-Voltage Transformers
- Satellite Dishes
- HVAC systems
- GPS technology
- Flight control panels
- Space travel technology
Pursue Further LearningA
With the continuous advancement of technology, changes in the field of electrical engineering are also never-ending. With that, many states require electrical engineers to take up continuing education to keep their license. Every engineer must be in pace with the developments in their field even after getting their PE license.
You can take up additional new courses or classes, or join different electrical engineering societies to keep abreast with the changes. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) is the most prominent professional association for technological advancement in the world. The organization contributes to enhancing global technical conditions and is essential for every community and professionals around the globe.